So I already spent more than 2 weeks in Australia. i was thinking of where else i could go. The weather was starting to get really bad along the east coast so those famous beach towns are out of the question. I could choose to wait it out, some of my friends were saying that the weather should be better in a week or two. But I already spent so much money and the idea of just hanging around Sydney wasn’t particularly enticing– especially since it has been raining non stop. There’s still a lot of places I haven’t explored, but i guess they would have to wait until my next visit. I was planning on heading to New Zealand after Australia, so I figured I might as well head there earlier. I looked for flights to Auckland and there was a Jetstar flight for only AUD 200. That’s not bad. Jetstar really is the budget traveler’s best friend in these parts lol. But then I checked out flights to Queenstown and I found a flight for AUD 150. Most backpackers go to the North Island first in New Zealand and then work their way down to the South Island. I figured it wouldn’t make a difference if I do the backpacker’s trail in reverse. I also checked out lodging rates and all hostels were cheaper compared to those in Australia. If hostels are cheaper, then everything else must be cheaper. I definitely won’t be spending as much money. So I booked my flight and left Australia after 4 days.
The Queenstown Airport is small, but all the necessities are there. There’s an ATM inside so I withdrew some money. There’s also a money changer so I had my leftover Australian Dollars replaced with New Zealand Currency. There’s also a Vodafone booth so I purchased a local sim. Sim cards were noticeably more expensive. The NZD 49 sim card only comes with 3 GB of data. I just hope the hostels I’m staying at all have free Wi-Fi so I can make that limited amount of data last for a month. It’s easy to get to the center of town from the airport. When you step outside there are lots of shuttles waiting. They will drop you off at your hotel or hostel for NZD 20. If you wanna save cash the Connectabus is just as convenient. The bus stop is also right outside the airport and a bus passes by every 15 minutes or so. You only have to pay NZD 12 and you’ll be dropped off at the bus stop in town. No worries, almost all hostels in town are within walking distance from the bus stop.
Queenstown is known for 2 things. First, it’s known as the adventure capital of New Zealand. Some even call it the adventure capital of the world. Lots of people go here for an adrenaline rush. Popular activities include sky diving, hang gliding, and bungee jumping. There’s even a giant swing over a canyon. Take note that these activities aren’t cheap. You have to shell out anywhere from NZD 150-250 per activity. A lot of backpackers go way over their budget while in Queenstown because they can’t resist doing these activities. Cheaper options are ziplining, kayaking, or riding a speed boat. These activities cost less than NZD 50. You can even ride the speed boat for a buck if the timing is right. Queenstown is also known as a party town. Almost every night, people would go out drinking and partying. This is another reason why so many backpackers go way over their budget while they are here. Lots of travelers make Queenstown their last stop so it makes sense. They want to have a lot of fun before they leave the country. If you’re heading to Queenstown for the scenery and to experience the great outdoors, don’t stay near the center of town. You’re gonna hear music from the bars blasting until past 2 in the morning.
I booked a couple of nights at Nomads, possibly the most popular hostel in town. I heard it’s often fully booked, so I considered myself lucky that i was able to stay there. I wasn’t able to reserve beds on the cheapest rooms though, the cheapest bed that was available was on the 6 bed dorm. I arrived at night so when I got there around 9PM my room mates were getting ready to head out. Everyone was really friendly. You know how it is sometimes, you feel like you’re gonna be good friends with certain people as soon as you meet them even if you practically know nothing about them? That was how i felt, and I knew that I would have an awesome time in Queenstown. My room mates were all guys by the way. I always stay in mixed dorm rooms so everything was somehow kept in order. There’s something about sharing a room with a girl that makes guys clean up somewhat. In case you’re wondering what a room shared by 6 guys looks like, here are a couple of pictures taken at different days.
LOL. In spite of the mess, there are a lot of positives when there are no girls in the room. For one thing we could talk about anything. We could also be ourselves without caring what our room mates would think. It’s like if a guy is annoyed, you wouldn’t really care lol. Everyone was pretty chill though, good vibes all around at all times. I didn’t mind the mess because I’m messy myself lol. Your room mates can either ruin your hostel experience or make it better. I was lucky it was the latter during my stay at Nomads.
The Nomads Hostel in Queenstown was awesome. The place looked brand new and had a number of amenities. It was easy to book activities and all the staff were friendly and helpful. Besides free breakfast, they also have free dinner every night! I was ecstatic when I found out about that. I only had to worry about lunch woo hoo! The hostel doesn’t have free Wi Fi though which was kind of a bummer. i was told that hostels in New Zealand don’t usually offer free Wi-Fi so I kinda expected that. It was the first leg of my trip though so it wasn’t a big deal, I still had 3 GB of data to burn. Besides, I rarely had any use for it except for navigation.
You don’t have to break the bank while in Queenstown. If you like hiking then you’re gonna love the place. Just walk in any direction and you would end up doing a hike. The best thing about these hikes? You can do it all for free! The most popular hike is up Queenstown Hill due to its proximity to the town. It’s an easy hike, you can reach the top in about an hour depending on your level of fitness. It may not be that high but once you reach the top you’ll be rewarded with amazing views. This is definitely a must do activity while in Queenstown since it’s such an easy hike.
Since it’s a touristy town, eating out can be a bit pricey. Some hostels have deals with a number of restaurants so it’s worth checking out those places. Devil Burger for instance gives you free fries if you’re checked in at Nomads. The most popular place for burgers though is Fergburger. Eating a fergburger seems to be a must do activity in Queenstown so I just went with the flow. Expect a long wait since there’s always a queue no matter the time of day. The burgers do taste good, though i found those Devil burgers just as tasty. When it comes to burgers though, I still prefer my good old Shake Shack. 😛
Of course if you’re really on a tight budget, the best way to go would be to cook your own meals. I found the prices of food at the grocery stores relatively cheap– at least cheaper than in Australia. But if you really want to save money, shop at Pak’nSave. It’s a chain of grocery stores in New Zealand where they sell really cheap food. You can get a giant loaf of bread for only a buck. A huge pack of ham costs only NZD 2. Remember the name Pak’nSave. This grocery store will be your new best friend while in New Zealand.
Overall I had a really great time in Queenstown. It’s incredibly beautiful. It also has a kick-ass night life. And everyone i met there made those couple of days extra special and memorable. I would say i fell in love with the place. I’ve been to a lot places that i loved, but i rarely have the urge to settle down in a certain place. Queenstown is different. It’s definitely a place I can imagine myself living in.